My playthrough

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notbobsmith
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My playthrough

Post by notbobsmith » Thu Apr 26, 2018 11:48 pm

Quick update on my playthrough. I'm on Chapter 2 right now and so far I'm enjoying it. It's an interesting world that I don't quite understand yet, but I do like that they let you discover it instead of being told how everything works or why things are the way they are. Some people have mentioned that the humor can be hit or miss and I think that's true to an extent, but there is a certain charm and sense of whimsy to it that makes up for that. I just visited the house with the sitcom family (complete with laugh track). I'm not sure what is going on there or what/if the payoff is, but I found it pretty amusing (and surreal) by itself. The cel-drawn animation style is well done giving it a Saturday morning cartoon feel to it.

One thing that is odd from a game design stand point: being able to jump ahead by choosing chapters. This seems to have been a thing for Sierra games of this era. KQ7 and Phantasmagoria also did this (maybe others that I am not aware of). The question is: why? It spoils the narrative. I can see getting stuck and needing a hint, but skipping ahead to another chapter seems worse.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by Tawmis » Fri Apr 27, 2018 1:39 am

notbobsmith wrote: One thing that is odd from a game design stand point: being able to jump ahead by choosing chapters. This seems to have been a thing for Sierra games of this era. KQ7 and Phantasmagoria also did this (maybe others that I am not aware of). The question is: why? It spoils the narrative. I can see getting stuck and needing a hint, but skipping ahead to another chapter seems worse.
I have always wondered this for Phantasmagoria - but KQ7 and Torin's Passage, I always thought it was a "I got stuck and don't know what to do?" - prevent frustration and allow a younger audience to continue to game without getting worked up. But Phantasmagoria didn't have a younger audience target, so that one always made me wonder.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by adeyke » Fri Apr 27, 2018 7:43 am

That Bitternut family is a big example of a miss for me.

There's no in-universe explanation for any of it. It's treated like a t.v. show, but it's not clear at what level. Is it the set of a sitcom, and those are just actors improvising to your intrusion? Or are there actors elsewhere who created those characters and we're interacting with a fictional world within the fictional world of the game? Or are there no actors at all, and what we perceive as a scripted sitcom is just a recording of genuine people? I don't think the portrayal is consistent with any of these interpretations. It's also black and white, even though none of the rest of the world is. Escarpa isn't sitcom world or t.v. world or anything like that; the Bitternuts are just a one-off gag.

It's also not funny. It's just a woman being verbally and emotionally abusive to her husband. There's a laugh track, but it's not there to highlight the jokes. I'd say, instead, that it's a joke about the laugh track. That is, it's making the observation that some sitcoms will use laugh tracks even for things that aren't actually funny. And generally, it could be saying that those old sitcoms weren't actually as funny as the player might be remembering.

(Or maybe every line that has a laugh track following it is actually supposed to be funny, in which case I think it's really failing.)

The whole thing would also be lost on children, since they wouldn't have watched those black and white sitcoms growing up. They'd just be left with inappropriate canned laughter and an abusive woman in a black and white scene.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by BBP » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:32 am

I really liked the Bitternuts myself. There are Dutch comedies which may have one or two jokes in a half hour long episode, and there are American comedies with an audience that roars at absolutely nothing, with Married With Children as prime offender. Guy who plays Ted Bundy walks in, audience whoos and hollers like it's Claudia Schiffer doing a striptease. Girl who plays Kelly Bundy walks in, audience roars even louder. Al Bundy walks in, audience goes mad. All the jokes that are made, are vile remarks at the other character's social status and performance. It's so utterly annoying.
So yeah I appreciated the spoof.


The only time I've ever skipped a chapter was in Under A Killing Moon, where there's a dreadful section called the GRS which I found nigh impossible. I suppose they're anti-frustration features. Since Phantas, Torin and KQ7 all cater to novice players, I don't find it surprising.

...of these, Phantas is the easiest!
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Re: My playthrough

Post by Datadog » Fri Apr 27, 2018 2:12 pm

The first impression I got from the Bitternuts was that Al Lowe might have intended Escarpa to be more of a silly "Looney Tunes" place, or a world full of TV parodies. Almost like his own Isle of Wonder. But since the rest of Escarpa isn't as bizarre as the Bitternuts, and they're pretty much the first people you run into, it's a very oddly placed segment in the game.
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Re: My playthrough

Post by adeyke » Fri Apr 27, 2018 3:02 pm

The first screen on Escarpa where you have control is just outside the Bitternuts' house, so yes, I definitely agree that it gives a false impression of the sort of world Escarpa is. I could imagine a world where something like the Bitternuts really fits in, but it would need some real worldbuilding to do well.

I'd also say that the Bitternuts are more pastiche than parody. That is, instead of mocking cruel, unfunny monochrome sitcoms, it just is one.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by BBP » Fri Apr 27, 2018 5:04 pm

The whole game seems nuts to me!

What makes you feel that Bitternuts is not a parody? What makes it clear to me is:
"Live, on CD-Rom"
(since it's a CD-Rom it can never be live. )

"Phony Canned Applause" and "Phony Laugh Track" and "small fake chuckle" "fake crowd reaction" "small fake laugh"
The subtitles stress the canned applause is obviously phony

"With Jack Kluckman as Mr Bitternut.."
Obviously satirizing three stars.I still don't know who Kluckman is supposed to be.

Toe tapping tune a la Nanny Called Fran, "here are the bitternuts, yes they're the bitternuts, they're not just bitter but they are nuts, they are nuts, bitternuts!"
TVTropes calls it Captain Obvious, this is to me satirizing the silliness of the summary of the pre-story in the titles, as you have in Nanny Called Fran.
Captain Obvious is also used to make fun of other things, like:
We join the Bitternuts just as they hear a knock on the door. {DRUM-LIKE KNOCK}
"We're now returning to the Bitternuts, already in progress"
(Captain Obvious)

"Tune in next time to hear Bobby Bitternut say..." {cue random phrase}
How exactly are we tuning in next time?

"The Bitternuts was (not) FILMED before a live audience!"
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Re: My playthrough

Post by adeyke » Fri Apr 27, 2018 10:19 pm

I agree that there are some jokes, but it takes more than that to be a parody. I realize that colloquially, "parody" is a very broad term, but what I specifically mean by it is somethingt hat exaggerates aspects of a work in order to make clear some perceived flaw or absurdity already present in the original. The target of the joke must be the work being parodied.

From your list:
BBP wrote:"Live, on CD-Rom"
(since it's a CD-Rom it can never be live. )
Not a parody. In a sense, it's just factual (Torin interacts with the scene as it happens, so it's "live", while the game is on CD-ROM), but otherwise it's just a joke.
BBP wrote:"Phony Canned Applause" and "Phony Laugh Track" and "small fake chuckle" "fake crowd reaction" "small fake laugh"
The subtitles stress the canned applause is obviously phony
This is also just factual. Pre-recorded reactions are fake, so this just makes players who can't hear the audio get an accurate understanding of what's happening. Admitting the fakeness is admittedly humorous.

As for the use of the laugh track in general, there are many ways that could be parodied. One possibility would be to have a laugh track for explicitly unfunny things (e.g. a tragic news report, a boring business meeting). Another would be to lampshade it, by having the characters themselves comment on it. Yet another would be to reveal that the laughter had been diegetic the whole time.

What the Bitternuts does, however, is just have various lines of dialogue that are just sort of lukewarm levels of funny followed by the canned laughter. It's not really subverting it or exaggerating it beyond the level of a (bad) sitcom.
BBP wrote:"With Jack Kluckman as Mr Bitternut.."
Obviously satirizing three stars.I still don't know who Kluckman is supposed to be.
Not satirizing. Just referencing.
Mrs. Bitternut = Sandra Bullhockey = Sandra Bullock
Mr. Bitternut = Jack Kluckman = Jack Klugman
Bobby Bitternut = Vinyl MacCaulking = Macaulay Culkin

I'll freely admit that I really don't know anything about those actors. However, I don't think they're relevant to the genre the Bitternuts is supposedly parodying. If we place in the 1950s, two of them weren't even alive then. I don't know if the Bitternuts are supposed to resemble the listed actors in any way. To me, it looks like it goes no deeper than "here are three names that sound a bit like the names of three actors".
BBP wrote:Toe tapping tune a la Nanny Called Fran, "here are the bitternuts, yes they're the bitternuts, they're not just bitter but they are nuts, they are nuts, bitternuts!"
TVTropes calls it Captain Obvious, this is to me satirizing the silliness of the summary of the pre-story in the titles, as you have in Nanny Called Fran.
That show is from the 90s, but if that sort of summary is also present in the those early sitcoms, then I'll grant that this could be parodying them.
Captain Obvious is also used to make fun of other things, like:
We join the Bitternuts just as they hear a knock on the door. {DRUM-LIKE KNOCK}
"We're now returning to the Bitternuts, already in progress"
(Captain Obvious)
For this to be parody, it must be the case that those early sitcoms tended to state the obvious and the Bitternuts is making fun of them for doing so and the Bitternuts is stating the obvious in an exaggerated way to call attention to how those sitcoms do it.

However, if the Bitternuts just state the obvious because it's funny, it's not parody.
BBP wrote:"Tune in next time to hear Bobby Bitternut say..." {cue random phrase}
How exactly are we tuning in next time?
I'd say this isn't even a joke. It's not clear in what sense the Bitternuts is a t.v. show, but it is one, and that's what shows say at the end.
BBP wrote:"The Bitternuts was (not) FILMED before a live audience!"
Yes? Some sitcoms have actual people watch the show as it's being filmed and then have their genuine responses recorded and used for the broadcast. The line here is just saying that it wants to brag about doing that, but includes the "(not)" because that would be lying and they actually just have generic pre-recorded laughter and applause.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by BBP » Sat Apr 28, 2018 6:54 am

Exactly and how many shows would admit the "not"? None. Parody alert!

Your live on CD-Rom remark, I don't see how you can't see it's so obviously not live. This is a joke! Dude!

Don't think too much of these actors, they probably went for the biggest names they could find so younger kids would recognize them, particularly for Culkin in view of the success of the Home Alone movies.
These are the kind of jokes that are being used to the max in the Dutch Donald Duck magazines - and the grown-up readers, who make up at least 40% of the target audience, have often spoken out on their appreciation of them. I picked up on this effect when I started to draw my guitarist Duckies - to effect that became too great a success to my liking. I ended up making Rammstent for some guy in France, Joe Pass The Duck (had never heard of Joe Pass) for some guy in England and Neil Peart (drummer for the Canadian band Rush) for some guy in Australia. Maybe you even remember Grebriel Knight, who's got a lot of attention here and on my DeviantArt account:
http://www.sierrahelp.com/forums/viewto ... =65&t=3431

The subs say "phony laugh track" or something similar at any time in the subs, because they wanted deaf people to be in on the joke.
There is a lot of the laugh track at almost any spot, and few of it is funny, meaning it points out the excessive use of laugh tracks in some sitcoms s you point out in your post. For instance:
Bobby: "Whoa, who's the big guy!" (laughs)
Mom: "I don't know, honey. (fake chuckle)
Mom: "We're still waiting to find out." (teensy bit louder fake chuckle)

And:
MRS B So, do you want to come in? Or maybe that should be, "CAN" you come in?
(phony laugh track)
TORIN Why, thank you. I will.
(phony laugh track)

And:
MRS B And that's Bobby, our son.
(small fake laugh)

The cheering at Bobby Bitternut before he's on the screen and the insane squeeling when he finally shows up (and repeating of his first line in case the audience forgot it, in combination with it being fake laughing in the first place so it wasn't necessary at all) is another good example of this.

Please remember I only know what makes it past the ocean and I watch very little of that. I assume there's plenty of gunk that doesn't air here.
Torin's from 1995, Nanny Called Fran started in 1993, it could well be a bit of an eyebrow.

If you want any more examples I'd like to refer you to the Torin script I made:
http://larrylaffer.net/scripts/torin.pdf
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Re: My playthrough

Post by notbobsmith » Tue May 01, 2018 8:42 pm

Mildly stuck in Chapter 2. Trying to solve the tile puzzle. I was stuck a little earlier trying to get past the skunks until I found a missing item.
Datadog wrote:The first impression I got from the Bitternuts was that Al Lowe might have intended Escarpa to be more of a silly "Looney Tunes" place, or a world full of TV parodies. Almost like his own Isle of Wonder. But since the rest of Escarpa isn't as bizarre as the Bitternuts, and they're pretty much the first people you run into, it's a very oddly placed segment in the game.
I think this best describes the Bitternuts scene. The TV sitcom clichés where the audience laughs at everything is mildly amusing, but I was expecting more of a payoff. There no real context for it since nothing else in Escarpa is like it. If there had been a theme like the Isle of Wonder (one family is a sitcom, another a cheesy soap opera, etc.) it might have worked better. The one thing that might work is the knowing laughs of the audience when they describe the princess. But I don't know since I haven't gotten that far.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by notbobsmith » Tue May 01, 2018 11:19 pm

Got it. I was too fixated on trying to make the tiles into a map. Some of them sort of fit together that way.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by notbobsmith » Mon May 07, 2018 7:15 pm

Quick update. I'm on chapter 5 now. It seems that after Chapter 2, the game seems more puzzle based than adventure. Interesting story being told in flashbacks. I am genuinely interested in where this is going.

I did find some of the fourth wall breaking jokes in the beginning of chapter 5 to be pretty funny and cleverly executed.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by Tawmis » Mon May 07, 2018 8:21 pm

notbobsmith wrote:Quick update. I'm on chapter 5 now. It seems that after Chapter 2, the game seems more puzzle based than adventure. Interesting story being told in flashbacks. I am genuinely interested in where this is going.

I did find some of the fourth wall breaking jokes in the beginning of chapter 5 to be pretty funny and cleverly executed.
I knew you'd enjoy it! :D

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Re: My playthrough

Post by notbobsmith » Mon May 14, 2018 10:44 pm

And I just finished. Final Score: 999. Very enjoyable. It has a cute charm to it. There's been a bit of discussion about the humor and there are times when I don't think everything works, it still was well done. It wasn't "funny" so much as "amusing". The ending felt a bit rushed. I was expecting a little more of a confrontation. It's a pretty interesting and original world that I would have liked to get a little more background on, like why the "worlds" are now separated and how they functioned before. Perhaps that would have been explored in future games.

Random thoughts:
In Asthenia (the lava world), Torin mentions stuff about forts and military equipment, but I'm not sure how he concluded any of that from what he was seeing.
I mentioned that Chapters 3 and 4 were more puzzle based, but the final chapter at least was back to adventure gaming.
Fun hearing the Freddy Pharkus theme.
"Well I got a personal message from Al Lowe at the end. Didn't you?" :)

I'll give this another playthrough. Since the narrative was non-linear, I'd like to give it another viewing now that I have the whole story.

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Re: My playthrough

Post by Datadog » Tue May 15, 2018 1:24 am

notbobsmith wrote:"Well I got a personal message from Al Lowe at the end. Didn't you?"
You found the game's real ending? :D
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